How Can Female Employees Sharpen Their Negotiation Skills?
Whether we realize it or not, implicit and explicit discrimination still exists in the U.S. today. As evidenced in the decades-long perpetuation of the gender pay gap, discrimination is especially prevalent in the American workplace, making it all the more vital for U.S. employees to recognize and challenge instances of inequality that arise at the expense of underrepresented workers.
Gender Inequality in American Workplaces
It's no secret that female employees, not to mention BIPOC and LBGTQ+ workers, are automatically disadvantaged in the American workforce on the basis of gender. Working women are forced to clear more hurdles than their white male cisgender counterparts to advance in their careers.
Not only do female workers earn $0.83 for every white man’s dollar, but working women are frequently passed up during hiring and promotions. Although male and female employees request raises at a similar frequency, only 15% of women have their requests fulfilled compared to 20% of men with similar qualifications and experience.
In some cases, working women may be unaware that they’re perpetuating gender inequality through social conditioning (the act of learning and obeying societal norms). Given the systemic inequalities that still persist in the American workforce today, it’s important for working women to:
- Know and assert their employee rights;
- Understand the value of their work; and
- Develop confidence in their professional skills and abilities, including the ability to negotiate assertively and strategically.
For many women, effective negotiation skills might not come naturally. A large majority of female employees admit to feeling uncomfortable during pay negotiations.
This reflexive discomfort partly stems from the fact that our cultural norms are deeply rooted in patriarchal values, meaning that most women are socially conditioned to be compliant, polite, and submissive to male leadership; on the contrary, most men are conditioned to be authoritative and direct.
Fortunately, there are ways for working women to fight back and reduce the negative effects of gender discrimination in the professional sphere.
5 Ways That Women Can Strengthen Their Negotiation Skills
On average, employed women in the U.S. ask for 6% less when negotiating pay than white men with the same qualifications in similar positions.
Research shows that women are more likely than men to accept the first job offer they receive, as they typically lack male employees’ confidence when it comes to:
- Understanding the value of their professional skills and contributions; and/or
- Knowing that a better offer will come along.
Unfortunately, even women who push themselves out of their comfort zones to be more assertive and confident during pay negotiations risk rejection and dismissal.
More often than not, gender discrimination in the workplace is a double-edged sword. Women who comply with gender norms can be perceived as weak, less committed, and "too soft." On the other hand, women who employ a more direct approach risk facing backlash for being too aggressive, too forceful, or too masculine.
The Importance of Strong Negotiation Skills for Women
While salary discrepancies may seem minuscule at a glance, these deficits accumulate quickly over time. The ability to negotiate is crucial for women to have a successful career, as an inability to do so can drastically impact female employees’ lifetime earnings and financial longevity.
Strong negotiating skills aren’t just necessary for women to receive equal pay for equal work; rather, they also set the tone for the duration of the woman’s employment. Exercising assertive communication skills and an effective negotiation strategy can help female employees establish a solid foundation in their chosen occupations.
Many women equate assertive negotiating skills with the inherent cost of being disliked—a very real fear backed by research, as society has a longstanding history of penalizing members who stray from traditional gender norms. Still, it’s imperative for women to remember that effective negotiation is necessary to:
- Advance into better-paying positions
- Receive deserved respect and recognition in professional relationships
- Grow, develop, and improve in their chosen occupation
- Be confident in the value of their professional contributions
- Recognize opportunities that warrant a conversation about a pay raise
The good news is that there are ways for female employees to enhance their negotiation skills.
Keep reading to learn 5 tips for employed women to reclaim their agency in the workplace by learning to negotiate effectively.
#1. Keep records and prepare fully before entering a negotiation.
When negotiating pay, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. It’s essential to do your research and enter the conversation with the knowledge and information you need to be successful. As you can imagine, adequate preparation may look different for women in various industries, positions, and ranks in the company.
Presenting sufficient evidence of a favorable performance is never a bad idea. Women can and should consider keeping records of positive feedback from their supervisor, whether it was included in an email or discussed in previous one-on-ones, to reflect that the requested raise was rightfully earned.
Furthermore, employees who take adequate time to self-reflect stand to benefit in pay negotiations. Consider asking yourself the following questions before entering a negotiation:
- What do I want, and why do I want it? It's important to have a specific idea of what you're asking for and why you're asking for it, as this is the foundation of any pay negotiation. It can also motivate you to consider reasons why you deserve what you plan on asking for.
- What terms, if any, are you willing to settle on? Are there acceptable alternatives to certain elements of your request? It’s necessary to know what items you may be willing to compromise on and where you draw the line in the sand.
- Do I know my worth? Understanding the value of your professional contributions is integral to pay-related conversations.
#2. Research comparable salaries in your industry and geographical region.
Taking time to research applicable data before negotiating pay with an employer has significant benefits, including:
- Equipping women with tangible evidence that shows they deserve the compensation they’re requesting; and
- Instilling more confidence in female employees who were previously unaware or unsure of their worth.
There are several reputable websites, such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, that contain accurate salary data for numerous companies. Better yet, some platforms also include reviews from prior and current employees, which can give you a better idea of what to expect from a particular company going forward.
To prepare for a successful negotiation, consider researching a broad range of factors to determine the most realistic amount to ask for. Examples of influencing factors to consider can include (but aren’t limited to):
- Job outlook. What is the projected growth or decline for this position? What is the trajectory of the industry as a whole?
- Market demand. Are candidates for this position in high demand? Are more or fewer companies expected to hire for this position over the next several months or years?
- Geographical area. The cost of living varies from region to region. It’s worth reviewing starting salaries in your state of residence to give yourself the most accurate estimate.
- Required and preferred qualifications. Most job postings list the required and/or preferred qualifications that an employer desires in potential candidates for the position. Applicants who meet the majority of these checkboxes can and should modify their pay request to reflect this.
Generally speaking, more value added should equate to more compensation. If you feel that your qualifications, experience, or other traits make you a bigger asset to the company than other applicants, this should be reflected in the starting pay.
#3. Identify opportunities to legitimize your requests.
Employees who incorporate real-life applications in their compensation requests (as opposed to relying heavily on theories or future promises) can give them an edge in the negotiation.
Because women are already at a disadvantage when it comes to fair compensation, it’s especially important for female employees to legitimize their requests by putting themselves in the other party’s shoes. Even seemingly minor adjustments can maximize the chance of obtaining a desired outcome, such as using inclusive language (“we” and “us”) instead of divisive language (“me,” “I,” and “you”).
In many instances, empathy can be a significant strength when negotiating pay. Putting themselves in their supervisor’s shoes can help employees negotiate more persuasively by specifically illustrating what the company stands to gain if they choose to grant the employee’s request.
#4. Request an in-person meeting to avoid being misconstrued via email or another form of digital communication.
Passiveness isn’t a good trait to exhibit during a salary negotiation, as it can deflect from the gravity of the conversation. For employed women, it can increase the risk of being dismissed or not taken seriously by a boss or supervisor.
It’s important to approach any professional negotiation with the mentality that you mean business. While it’s often acceptable to schedule negotiations via email, Slack, or another digital platform, make sure that the meeting itself is officialized with a preset date, time, and agenda. This will give your employer adequate time to prepare and hopefully facilitate a conversation that is constructive for both of you.
Directly asking for a raise through a chatroom, email, or message board is typically frowned upon and can lead to undesirable results. Pursuing a raise through these means can increase the likelihood of being misunderstood or misinterpreted, as your boss can’t read body language or tonality in a chat or email.
Moreover, attempting to discuss the details of a raise in any setting besides an in-person meeting can indicate passiveness, a lack of professionalism, and a lack of forethought.
In the majority of cases, employers are less likely to accommodate requests from employees who appear to lack credible data or reasoning to support a desired pay raise, as opposed to employees who conducted thorough research and respected their supervisor’s time by requesting to meet in a professional setting.
#5. Choose a collaborative approach when possible.
While negotiation is largely focused on two individuals reaching an agreement, this doesn’t necessarily mean that an employee should approach the conversation as a lone wolf.
Entering a negotiation with an “all about me” attitude can backfire quickly. When possible, executing a collaborative approach can help show your employer that you have every intention to become (or remain) a valuable asset to the company while keeping the employer’s best interests in mind.
This can motivate your supervisor to reciprocate by keeping your best interests in mind, too—not to mention enhance their certainty that granting your compensation request will ultimately benefit the company as a whole, not just yourself.
Committed to Protecting the Rights of Tennessee Workers
On average, U.S. adults spend one-third of their life at work, making it all the more crucial for American workers to exercise their right to a safe and non-discriminatory workplace. Our experienced employment law attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of wronged workers in Tennessee.
If you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, Donati Law, PLLC can help you obtain the justice you deserve. Our compassionate team operates on a case-by-case basis because we believe in devoting full and personalized attention to each and every client we serve. From part-time workers to corporate executives, our employment attorneys are committed to fighting for your employee rights regardless of rank, industry, or position. Don’t wait to fight for the fair treatment you deserve.
If you’re experiencing unfair treatment at work, don’t suffer in silence. Our firm has a proven track record of representing workers throughout the Mid-South. Call (901) 209-5500 to schedule a consultation.